Olin Kreutz
Say it with me and Olin: The Bears are cheap! Credit: Jauerback

With another disappointing Bears season having finally, mercifully, come to an end, the time has once again come for me to once again ask the burning question . . .

No, not who the McCaskeys will hire as coach now that they’ve fired Matt Nagy, about a year after it was obvious he was the wrong person to hire in the first place.

And no, not who they will hire to replace general manager Ryan Pace, almost five years after he proved he knew nothing about selecting talent—I mean, Mitch Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes? Oh lord, I don’t think I’ll ever get over that.

No, the question is the one I posed last October when the topic first arose: Which collection of suckers will pay for the new Bears stadium—taxpayers in Arlington Heights or Chicago?

Then, as now, one thing is certain: the Bears won’t pay for it. That’s for sure—even if they’re the prime beneficiaries. 

As I told you last October, the one thing you need to know about the Bears is that they’re cheap. As in cheap, cheap, cheap, and cheap!

And as long as there’s someone somewhere foolish enough to pick up the tab for their new stadium, well, the Bears will happily let them pick it up. 

In that regard, they’re like that friend—and we all have one—who always manages to be conveniently in the bathroom when the waiter brings the bill to your table.

Before I continue, I must confess . . .

I failed. Miserably so.

That is, in last October’s column I tried to teach everyone—especially political writers who have to write about the stadium—that the Bears are cheap. Yet the message failed to sink in.

Consider the case of the Internet writer who wrote a story in November, citing an unnamed source, that the Bears would fire Nagy after their Thanksgiving Day game against Detroit.

Even though there were still six games left to play after the Detroit game.

The regular Bears beat writers wasted hours of their lives checking to see if that story was true. Which it wasn’t.

Of course it wasn’t true. Anybody who knew anything about the Bears knew it couldn’t be true because . . .

Nagy had a guaranteed contract. The Bears would have had to pay him, even if they fired him. And there’s no way the Bears would pay a coach who wasn’t actually coaching. 

Because . . .

The Bears are cheap! As I tried to tell you in October!

Don’t believe me? Ask any ex-Bear who’s not on the payroll, and he’ll tell you. It’s about the only thing that Mike Ditka—a raging MAGA man—and I agree on.

I once spent a delightful evening having dinner with the late, great Doug Buffone, who regaled us with hilarious stories about the Bears’ cheapness back in the 60s and 70s when he was playing linebacker.

Apparently, not much has changed. As we learned thanks to Olin Kreutz, the former All-Pro center who played 13 seasons for the Bears.

A few years ago, the Bears offered to pay Kreutz to come to training camp and help coach the offensive linemen for—get ready for this—$15 an hour, Kreutz recently revealed

When asked about this monumental display of cheapness, George McCaskey—chairman of the Bears board—didn’t deny it. Nor did he apologize to Kreutz, who sacrificed life and limb for the team.

Hell, no. He tried to defend it, castigating Kreutz by saying he hadn’t told the full story. Which, apparently, is that the Bears pay all their training-camp assistant coaches $15 an hour. So it was nothing personal against Kreutz.

You call that an explanation? Quite the contrary—McCaskey merely underscored the very point Kreutz was making. And that is . . . you’re cheap!

Say what you will about George Steinbrenner, who used to own the New York Yankees—and I thought he was a tyrant and bully. But at least he wasn’t cheap. Why, Steinbrenner paid former stars like Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle good money to come to spring training and hang around so that fans could look at them just being Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

Now, I’ve had Bears fans tell me: Ben, the Bears need a new stadium because Soldier Field is too small. And they need to sell more tickets to raise the money to bring in top talent.

First of all, the NFL is basically a socialistic cartel for billionaires whose incomes are guaranteed by billions of dollars in TV revenues. So they already have money pouring in.

Secondly, there’s a salary cap that limits how much they can pay their players.

And, finally, all the money in the world won’t substitute for lack of judgment. To give you just one example . . .

In the 2000 draft, the Bears selected Paul Edinger, a so-so placekicker, over Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time.

Edinger’s career with the Bears lasted five seasons. Brady, who’s won seven Super Bowls, is still going strong.

Hey, Bears fans, do you think a stadium had anything to do with taking Edinger over Brady? You could build them the Taj Mahal of stadiums and the Bears would still take Edinger over Brady.

’Cause on top of being cheap, they don’t know football.

Alas, all my ranting and raving will not stop any municipality from forking over billions to build the Bears a new stadium, no matter how unworthy they may be of such generosity.

So, my prediction remains the same from October . . .

I predict the new stadium will be built in Arlington Heights. And the taxpayers of Arlington Heights will pay for it with a TIF. Which the leaders of Arlington Heights will pretend doesn’t raise property taxes, even though, of course, it does.

On the bright side, the Bears will be flush with so much extra money, they might give their training-camp assistant coaches a raise. 

Though, on second thought, I doubt it. ’Cause as every Bear from Mike Ditka to Doug Buffone to Olin Kreutz can tell you . . .

The Bears are cheap!

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